Monday, January 17, 2011

Paid search in your healthcare marketing campaign? Not so fast

If you're thinking about using paid search options (also known as Search Engine Marketing or SEM) such as Google AdWords or Microsoft adCenter (Yahoo! and Bing), I urge you to work on your organic search strategy first. It will save you tons of money.

Why? Search Engine Marketing is based on the same principals as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The cost of your ad campaign depends on how relevant your landing page is to your ad copy and the keywords you choose. In other words, how well your website is search engine optimized. Therefore, if you run an ad for physical therapy and direct that ad to a generic, corporate jargon-laced home page that doesn't mention the phrase "physical therapy" once, each click will cost you a lot of money.

Yes, there are tools to improve your campaign. Google AdWords for example, gives you a wealth of information you can use to improve the relevancy of your ads and website and ultimately to reduce the cost of each click. But why experiment while paying money? Fix your campaign first, then start paying for ads. If you do it well enough you might not even need to buy ads!

How? Think carefully about what service you want to promote. Make it as specific and narrow as possible. For example, rather than the broad service of "homecare," try "homecare for patients with dementia." This targets in on keywords that your customers are more likely to use in a search engine. Then, incorporate those keywords into your website or blog. Create information or resources that people searching for those keywords are likely to find valuable. Share that content across your social networks, in newsletters and anywhere else you can think of.

Once you get some traffic to your site you can start looking at the data to see whether people think your content and service is "relevant." (You'll need a good website analytics tool for that -- Google Analytics is a good, free one.) You'll know if it is relevant if your bounce rate is low (people don't get to your site and leave right away; rather they click around and look at other things), or if people sign up for your newsletters, follow you on social networks, spend a lot of time reading your information or best of all -- call you to schedule an appointment.

If it doesn't look like people are interested in your content or services, just tweak your content until they do and start the process again. It will take time and effort, but if you do this first you'll save hundreds or thousands of dollars if you ever do start a paid Search Engine Marketing campaign--Guaranteed. Better yet, you may even decide you don't need paid search ads after all!

Don't want to bother? profiles are optimized for you.

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